Animal agriculture is one of the most resource-intensive industries on the planet. It occupies approximately 45 percent of the Earth’s total land area, with around 33 percent of the globe’s arable land set aside for the growth of livestock feed. Not only this, but the livestock system uses the majority of our freshwater stores, and drives greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, this system causes rampant air and water pollution, land degradation, deforestation and is pushing countless species to the brink of extinction. And yet, one in eight people still suffer from food scarcity.

As if this weren’t bad enough, however, researchers have just sounded the alarm about another, little-known impact that the animal agriculture industry is exerting upon the planet. Not many people have heard about phosphorus, a mineral that is essential to all forms of life upon Earth. All living organisms require it in order to produce energy, and it is a key element in our DNA. Phosphorus cannot be replaced and there is no substitute for it. Basically, no phosphorus equals no life.

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Charly Fardji, Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, and Marissa de Boer, researcher at VU University Amsterdam and Project Manager for SusPhos, have warned that “phosphorus is not a renewable resource. Reserves are limited and not equally spread over the planet. The only large mines are located in Morocco, Russia, China, and the U.S. Depending on which scientists you ask, the world’s phosphate rock reserves will last for another 35 to 400 years – though the more optimistic assessments rely on the discovery of new deposits,”

Fardji and de Boer added that thanks to this mineral’s increased popularity in recent decades as an ingredient in plant fertilizers, the natural “phosphorus cycle” that once sustained life as we knew it – whereby crops were eaten by humans and animals, and feces was used to help crops flourish again – has now been broken. “Each year 220 million tons of phosphate rocks are mined, but only a neglible amount makes it back into the soil,” they stated. “Crops are transported to cities and the waste is not returned to the fields but to sewage systems, which mainly ends up in the sea.”

The real kicker here is that meat production requires FIFTY TIMES more phosphorus than the production of vegetables … and if demand for meat continues to grow at its current rate, the demand for phosphorus fertilizers is predicted to double by 2050.

However, Fardji and de Boer have expressed their hope that “we could reinvent a modern phosphorus cycle simply by dramatically reducing our consumption.” Leaving animal products off your plate is one extremely powerful way to go about doing just that.

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As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future.

“The real war against global hunger is being fought on our plates, multiple times a day with every food choice we make,” says Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder of One Green Planet, “I say this because one of the biggest challenges facing our planet, and our species is that we are knowingly eating ourselves into extinction, and doing very little about it.”

By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, you can help ensure a future where our food system is able to support the ever-growing population.

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Lead Image Source: Inhabitat